CANNABIS STUDY ENCOURAGING FOR MS

Discussion in 'Medical Marijuana' started by Alfa, Sep 11, 2004.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    CANNABIS STUDY ENCOURAGING FOR MS

    The biggest UK study of cannabis-based drugs has shown evidence for a
    long-term benefit in easing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

    "There is some evidence of a long-term effect," Dr John Zajicek, who
    heads the trial, confirmed to the BA Festival of Science at Exeter
    University.

    He also said the data so far "were consistent" with the idea the drugs
    could arrest nerve death in sufferers.

    He was presenting results that update a study published in The Lancet
    last year.

    This 15-week research project revealed patients using cannabinoid
    compounds could find relief from some of the painful symptoms of MS.

    But an analysis of the data suggested there was little reduction in
    spasticity among the research subjects - one of the key tests used to
    assess the drugs.

    Spasticity refers to feelings of stiffness and a wide range of
    involuntary muscle spasms or sudden movements.

    Speaking at the annual British Association meeting, Dr Zajicek, from
    the Peninsula Medical School in Devon, said this assessment might have
    been premature.

    Longer-term monitoring, he said, had now shown patients experiencing
    significant improvement in this area.

    Continued Support

    In MS, the protective sheath that surrounds nerves (myelin) wastes
    away, leaving scar tissue known as a sclerosis. Sometimes the nerve
    fibre itself is damaged.

    This disrupts the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses
    to and from the brain, producing the various symptoms of MS. These
    include pain, deadening fatigue, problems with sight, mobility and
    coordination.

    "We have generated some very interesting results which suggest there
    may be a potential long-term benefit from these drugs," Dr Zaijcek
    told journalists.

    "There was evidence of an effect on spasticity and on
    disability."

    Asked whether cannabis might work by arresting the death of nerve
    cells in MS sufferers, Dr Zajicek answered: "Our results are certainly
    consistent with that hypothesis."

    Patients were given up to 25mg per day of either whole cannabis
    extract in pill form, a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) pill, or a placebo.
    The first trial, with 667 volunteers, lasted 15 weeks and was
    published in The Lancet in November.

    These subjects were then asked if they wanted to participate in a
    further 52-week trial. About two-thirds of the original participants
    signed up for this long-term study.

    A strong beneficial effect on symptoms of the disease was reported by
    patients throughout the 15-week trial and the
    one-year study. But this
    did not by itself demonstrate an underlying physical basis for this
    effect, Dr Zajicek admitted.

    "What we've been trying to do is to have some objective, independent
    evidence of that," said Dr Zajicek.

    Test of Safety

    Asked whether he thought cannabis should be approved as a medicine, Dr
    Zajicek answered: "I think the licensing agencies need to assess all
    the evidence and we need further, long-term studies before we make
    that decision."

    "This comes with lots of caveats. The experiment was only designed for
    a 15-week trial. We followed the subjects up expecting to find out
    only whether cannabis was safe in the longer term.

    "But some of the experimental data emerged over the course of our
    study."

    In the last 15 years, scientists have discovered a variety of
    cannabis-like chemicals (or cannabinoids) in the brain.

    They reduce the amount of neurotransmitters that mediate communication
    between nerve cells.

    Certain cannabinoids may have more of an effect than others, Dr
    Zajicek said.

    These cannabis-like chemicals have been used as treatments for
    increasing appetite associated with cancer and Aids, as well as
    various movement disorders.